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Hank & Diane Milanowski

Hank & Diane Milanowski

We sat down with Hank and Diane Milanowski, longtime St. Stephen parishioners, to get their thoughts on the Renew + Restore + Rejoice campaign.

Maybe you’ve seen Hank singing in the choir or Diane enjoying mass with her grandchildren. One thing’s for certain: the Milanowski family has been a fixture at St .Stephen as long as most of us can remember.

Hank started school here in 1946, and remained an active parishioner his entire childhood, graduating from Catholic Central and Aquinas College. After studying dentistry at the University of Michigan and serving in the Air Force for three years, the Milanowski's came back to Grand Rapids in 1968 and joyfully rejoined the St. Stephen family.

They recall feeling very inspired by Msgr. Alt’s commitment to making St. Stephen a place of racial and economic diversity. The Milanowski's raised their six children at St Stephen. All four of their daughters were married here, and their youngest granddaughter, Faith Kelly, is in 6th grade at the school.

Hank remembers when the gym was built at St Stephen, thanks to a generous gift from Mr. Peter Wege, in 1951! Diane feels proud and happy that all four of her daughters were married at St Stephen.

Hank shared this memory of this time at St. Stephen school: “I remember playing in Farmer’s Field (which is now Clark Home). It was a wetland area and a great place to play. I even learned to smoke a corncob pipe there!”

They both recall fondly so many parish activities: from St. Patrick’s Day parties to “Sounds of St. Stephens” variety shows to making sfeeha (Syrian meat pies) for the Festival of the Arts.

“We need to restore the beauty and sacredness of the worship space. It’s a different feeling to walk into a church with a more historic reference to Catholic identity” said Hank. "We need both: a gentle, quiet space for meditation and prayer and a gathering space of social and ministry outreach.”

Diane added, “For so many Catholic activities — from baptisms to funerals — the space isn’t conducive to people gathering. The renovation will address this in a way that’s sensible and inspirational.”

Diane: "I’m excited how the worship space will help us focus on the altar and tabernacle.”

Hank: “I like the prominence of the worship space. I think the lighting and ambiance will feel more inspiring, and that the Stations of the Cross will have a stronger place."